Greta is a multidisciplinary engineer born and raised in Italy. In 2010 she moved to Denmark to continue her studies in design and shortly after she had her first encounter with a 3D printer. In the following years, she would the embark in countless academic 3D printing adventures that culminated in a PhD in additive manufacturing from the mechanical engineering department at the Technical University of Denmark in 2016. During that time she has collaborated with designers and with other universities such as MIT, where she has been a guest researcher developing a food printer, and ETH Zürich. After leaving academia, in the past two years, she has been working as an additive manufacturing specialist in different manufacturing companies, helping them developing and executing successful 3D printing strategies.
She now lives in Sweden, where she works as an additive manufacturing specialist and teacher for a company called AMEXCI AB.
Greta, could you let us know about your background and what brought you to 3D printing in the first place?
I am originally Italian and my background is really diverse, but I like to say that I am an industrial designer converted to mechanical engineering. My first encounter with 3D printing dates back to my first year of Master studies at the Technical University of Denmark, back in 2011, and it happened almost by chance. A classmate once mentioned that somewhere in the campus there was a machine able create any object in 3D. At that time I didn’t really know what a 3D printer was, but surely it sounded cool and as an aspiring designer I was just imagining all the possibilities of shape explorations such a machine would open up. So, as a naturally curious person, I felt I had to find it. It took me about 6 months but eventually, I met the researcher in charge. And so my 3D printing journey started, first as a master student, then as a PhD and finally as a specialist in the manufacturing industry.
What was your very first experience with 3D Printing?
When I first discovered the FDM 3D printer in my university, I tried to find ways to get involved with it. There were no fablabs or maker spaces in the area back then, at least to my knowledge, so my only option was to approach it academically. With a friend, we managed to get a special course approved, where our task was to redesign parts of a Reprap Prusa Mendel for serial production. It was really fun and inspiring spending whole days in the lab, getting our hands dirty and discovering new things every day. So after that, I continued with a master thesis followed by a PhD in multi-material additive manufacturing and tooling.
You are now an Additive Manufacturing specialist at AMEXCI AB. Could you let us a bit more about your job and what AMEXCI AB is about?
AMEXCI AB is a young Swedish company, privately owned by 12 large Swedish manufacturers. We work in different business areas, such as research and development, design and education and our primary focus to help the Swedish industry to adopt 3D printing faster and more effectively. We do this by providing support in terms of knowledge and by creating networks between the different service providers and clients. We are currently building a lab with several industrial 3d printers (both metal and polymers) that we will use for research purposes and testing. Last but not least, we have close collaborations with several universities, especially in Sweden, and other industrial partners.
At the moment I am in charge of our education programs. I train engineers, designers, researchers and managers from different organizations and at different levels in order to get them up to speed with the technology. My greatest effort goes definitely into establishing a “3D printing mindset and culture” in order to inspire the next generation of developers. As a specialist I also work on individual projects and 3d printing design challenges, trying to find the right solutions for our clients, and guide them towards optimal choices. This can be in terms of software, machines, processes, materials, you name it.
Do you have any (fun or not) story about the company or your career to share with us?
During my master thesis, I diligently designed and prototyped a nozzle for an FDM printer to extrude wax. However, during the first test run, I had a “little” accident. Today, as a matter of fact, the lab where I had the experiment still has leftover wax scattered all over a wall and a window, as a consequence of my wrong parameter calibration. There’s even a video on youtube!
Moral: process parameters are important. Do your calculations first.
Have you run into any challenges from being a woman engineer in 3D Printing?
I never encountered big challenges as a woman in 3D printing, however, I do feel the need of proving myself a little harder than necessary when it comes to technical matters, especially as soon as I step out of my specialized environment. I’ve had experiences where someone would comment that I do “not look like an engineer” or show surprise when being told I own several 3D printers. A few times, at the time of my PhD, I have actually met a couple of people that simply would not believe that: a) I was doing a PhD in mechanical engineering, b) that I was designing, building and testing different types of 3D printers, c) and that I actually enjoyed it. Sometimes people will just assume you are not the one with the technical knowledge and they will do it based on your looks and gender. This is frustrating, to say the least, and I do hope that we will soon reach a point where girls in technical fields will not be seen as a rarity.
What is the most impressive or impactful use of 3D printing you’ve seen so far?
The most impactful for me is definitely the use 3d printing in the medical field. Especially when it comes to prosthetics, body implants or surgical guides. As of today, it has saved and/or improved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people already. I think this is truly amazing and I am really looking forward to seeing how this is going to develop in the near future.
The most impressive is 3D printing in space! I just love everything about that!
What do you consider game-changing technologies in Additive Manufacturing?
It’s difficult to pick something specific here because I actually consider the whole of Additive Manufacturing a game-changing technology.
What makes the 3D printing industry particularly interesting for you?
I find the technical challenges particularly interesting. And the fact that as a relatively new technology (if we compare it, let’s say, to casting or other more conventional technologies) there are still a lot of things we don’t know about the processes. This ensures a high potential for discovering new things every day, which is something that I find particularly motivating.
What do you think of the 3D printing industry today? And how would you like to see it evolve?
Despite the big hype around 3D printing in the media, there are still a few big challenges, especially at the industrial level, to overcome. Even larger companies that are already using 3D printing for some of their products, often don’t have a clear strategy for it. How do I integrate 3D printing into my current production? How do I automate my process as much as possible? What are the steps for the qualifications of my parts? These are example questions that I get almost on a daily basis. However, the development is incredibly fast and I have a feeling that a dramatic shift in the industry will happen quite soon.
In your opinion, how could we encourage more women to become involved with 3D Printing?
We need to abolish this misconception that manufacturing industry is only for boys. We should keep talking about it, show our face and make our voice heard. We should share our story and inspire younger generations of girls to get closer to more technical disciplines. I think you ladies of women in 3d printing are doing a really great job. Keep up with the good work!
Favorite 3D tool (could be a software, machine, material…you name it)? I am in love with Markforged and with the high-speed sintering process.
Favorite moment in your day job? When we unload the parts from the machines.
What’s on your 3D Printing wishlist for the next 5 years? Multi-axis Printers that can make fully functional multi-material products.
Thank you for reading and for sharing!